A week ago, after the Colorado men's basketball team was routed at Utah, optimism still permeated the next meeting between head coach Tad Boyle and his staff.

Sure, it was ugly in Salt Lake City, a trip that ended with a 78-69 loss in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. But point guard McKinley Wright, who missed the Utah game due to a shoulder injury, was on the comeback trail. And even though the Buffaloes still were another two-game road trip away from a turn in the schedule that finally would see CU playing at the CU Events Center far more frequently, Boyle figured the favorable turn in the schedule actually began this weekend in the Bay Area.

It simply didn't happen.

While the Buffs managed a split over the weekend, winning for the first time at Cal since joining the Pac-12 Conference before squandering a lead at Stanford, the collapse against the Cardinal not only left the Buffs with a bitter taste in their collective mouths going into this week's home dates against Oregon State and Oregon, but it also left CU squarely in the bottom third of the Pac-12 standings regardless of the Sunday night outcome between Washington State and Oregon.

"I thought the schedule turned after Utah," Boyle said. "I fully expected to come to the Bay Area and get a sweep. We didn't make that happen. That's an opportunity that's lost that we're never going to get again. One thing about Stanford and Cal is we only get them once this year. Now we go back home and we get Oregon State and Oregon, but we only get them once.


"These games are becoming critically important. I said Cal was a must-win. Well, Oregon State (on Thursday) is a must-win. For us to do what we want to do, which is to finish in the top half of the league, we have to be able to do that."

A number of familiar shortcomings stung the Buffs at Stanford, as CU (11-8, 2-5 Pac-12) wasted a game it had in control and led by 12 points late in the first half.

A Buffs defense that disappeared after halftime allowed Stanford to go 18-for-25 from the field in the second half, turning the Cardinal's first half shooting percentage of .375 into a final mark of .551. It was the fifth time this season, and the third time in seven Pac-12 games, CU's opponent has topped the 50 percent mark from the field. That occurred only five times in 32 games all last season.

CU again struggled from 3-point range, going 3-for-16 to drop its season percentage to .330. In Boyle's previous eight seasons at CU only the 2013-14 squad, which played the second half of the season without Spencer Dinwiddie's .413 mark on 3-pointers, finished with a lower percentage from the arc (.318).

Boyle also lamented his club's inability to get to the free throw line at Stanford after getting into the bonus with more than 14 minutes remaining, though the Buffs struggled anyway when they did get to the line (7-for-13).

"We lost one home game. We've won one road game. Now you've got to hold serve at home," Boyle said. "The schedule has turned, but we gave this opportunity up (at Stanford). That's what's really, really gut-wrenching to me. You can't let these opportunities pass you by."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07